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PSU partners with KCU to found dental school program

Pittsburg State University has founded a new partnership program with Kansas City University to assist pre-dental students. 

PSU and Kansas City University (KCU) have fostered a partnerships program since 2002 with pre-med students but now, students interested in studying dental medicine can complete their degree in fewer years and stay closer to home, should they desire. The new dental school will be built in Joplin, projected to open in 2022. This partnership with KCU to build a new school of dental medicine stems from the shortage of dentistry in rural areas. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, nearly every county within a 125-mile radius of Joplin has a shortage of professional dental healthcare. 

“KCU is known for identifying creative solutions and building partnerships, and we have come to know PSU as being adept at that, as well,” said Lina Niessen, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at KCU. “We’re proud to partner with PSU to help close the gap on the shortage of dentists while at the same time providing unparalleled opportunities for their students.” 

Students who go through the partnership program with KCU will transfer to KCU after their junior year as full-time first year students there. After the completion of their “freshman” year there, they will receive their bachelor’s degree from PSU and continue studying there. This allows students to complete their entire dental coursework in seven years rather than eight. 

“We’ve had several students go through the partners program and they were absolutely amazing..,” said Virginia Rider, chair of the biology department. “Many of them are actually practicing medicine in this area… We’ve had a long tradition of partnership with Kansas City University.” 

According to Rider, students for the partnership program with KCU will be selected in their freshman year based on certain criteria, including ACT scores, academic performance, community service, extracurricular activities in high school and college, and drive for their career field. Rider also described that the partnership with the new dental school will be a “valuable asset” for PSU students and the Four-States region. 

“Kansas doesn’t even have a dental school..,” Rider said. “Many of our pre-dental students end up going to UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City) which is a wonderful school… but it only offers a certain number of seats to Kansas students, something like 15 seats… That’s from the whole state of Kansas… Right now, dental medicine is in a place where a large number of dentists are retiring and there’s a shortage of dentists who want to work in rural areas… We need to be able to increase and retain dentists in rural areas and particularly in this area… I am just over the moon that we now have an opportunity for students… This dental school keeps students in this area. I have had a lot of inquiries… asking about the partners program… especially about dentists and rural medicine… This is going to be a great boon for our students but also for the university and this region.” 

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